I am a collector of stuff. One of my sisters says that everything in my house is very interesting because it tells a story about my life; but she goes on to suggest that perhaps I should divide them up and display the memorabilia by season, just to eliminate some of the clutter. I seriously think about her suggestion because I value her opinion, but I would feel naked without any one of my treasures. Each and every one of them is a cherished memory.
My cancer survivor medals are no exception.
I keep my medals along with my certificates of completion for chemo and radiation hung on a very old picture that belonged to my dearest friend, Lorrie, when we were kids. For some unknown reason, I have always LOVED this picture. I have dragged this picture around with me for the past 40 years. It goes with nothing, yet it means everything. It reminds me of my dear friend and how much fun, laughter and tears we have shared over the years, even though we do not even live in the same state. We even shared breast cancer. She was diagnosed when we were 42, I was diagnosed when we were 59.
The picture keeps my medals close to my heart. They are part of my soul. For the past almost five years, I have always, always looked forward to crossing the finish line and getting the pink Komen or purple American Cancer Society medal. As far as I am concerned, they are more precious than 14K gold and diamonds.
My medals represent survivorship, courage, strength, hope and love, all of which were present in my life before my diagnosis but which are stronger and more meaningful today. I made it through the worst experience of my life and every day I am grateful to be alive and in good health. I am honored to be a part of a group of women and men who have shared my survivorship with the same passion as I. People just like me who understand the “Decadron rush,” the “metal-tasting” food, “hair loss” and weeks of “flu-like” symptoms.
They also understand the feeling of loss when one of our friends doesn’t survive. I guess that’s why I always shed some tears at these events. Tears for those we’ve lost, like my dear friend Susan and my first roommate at the National Breast Cancer Coalition, Sara, and those who will be lost if we don’t find a cure very soon.
I am always proud to wear my medals and my pink and purple survivor shirts. Like many other survivors, I hope it sends a message to someone else – “I did it and so can you.” There is life after cancer.
This Saturday at the Susan G. Komen Race, I will collect medal #5 and I can’t wait to walk under the pink balloon arch of triumph.
Muriel, the editor, four-year, 10-month survivor
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